Tzila FLEISHER. Aryeh AVUNADAV, Eliyahu SHLACHTER,
Sima ROTENBERG, Yitzhak FARBER, Betzalel HALPERIN
Printed by A. Strod and Sons, Tel Aviv
Translated by Ala Gamulka
We present this book, for future generations, in memory of our town. It is now sixteen years since the final destruction by the Nazis and their collaborators of our town Ustile.
For a long time, we were shaken by the news of the terrible truth about the fate of our town and our relatives. We could not grasp the fact that the contact we had with our dearly beloved was completely broken. We had left them there in the hope that we would still be able to see them some day, perhaps even in our country. It was not meant to be. The shock was so great and the pain was penetrating. We could not find a way to express our deep sadness and mourning. We could not even think of publishing a Yizkor book as it entailed a great deal of concentration, emotional peace and time to reflect.
In the meantime, life went on. Eventually, we were able to calm down and the first steps were taken to commemorate our destroyed community and its martyrs.
At a meeting of the former residents of our town, held on 19 Elul, 1959 in Jerusalem, we placed a memorial tablet in the Holocaust cellar on Mount Zion. Attached to it was the list of those who perished. One deed carries another Eliyahu SHLACHTER proposed the publication of a Yizkor Book. At the same time, the author of this article agreed to be the editor.
Truthfully, we must note that the proposal did not meet with any enthusiasm among those in the audience. Perhaps they did not believe that it was feasible. Member P., one of those active in the organization, expressed his doubts by whispering to me: You will have to write the entire book …i.e.: there will not be a book!
To our surprise, and to his, the member was wrong. He actually contributed an article. Here is our book.
We take special responsibility to point out what had been done for our town prior to the publication:
It was not an easy undertaking.
Half a year after the decision was made, we still had not received any material from our members. When we contacted Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, we were directed to the two articles published in the Volyn Anthology … I
t was only after our first mailing in Shevat, 1960 that we began to receive the first crop articles of remembrance and pictures. Some of them were inappropriate for publication due to the content and were returned to the senders. However, the fact there was some forward movement spurred us to continue to send mailings. We exchanged correspondence with members in our country, in the United States and Canada, Cuba and Argentina. The purpose was to explain and to encourage the writing. It was not enough. In order to obtain material on the Holocaust period we were obliged to go to the homes of some of our members and to write down their shocking stories.
We continued to collect material and to prepare until the holiday of Passover. We then sent the book to the printer.
As to the financial situation it was less encouraging. As I write these lines, we are still asking ourselves:
How will we receive help?
We must emphasize this fact in order to reply to a certain complaint, as follows:
As we announced in our first mailing, it was our intention to publish the book in Hebrew only. However, after some deliberation, we agreed that it was necessary to follow the wishes of the authors, whether in Hebrew or in Yiddish. Member G. from Argentina said that not everyone can read Hebrew and the book should be done entirely in Yiddish. If we did not agree, then we should use both languages.
Our reply was as written above.
Now we go to the contents of the book.
We do not pretend that that the book is complete. There will be those who will find flaws and literary lapses. However, in spite of this, it is obvious that the book presents a magnificent memorial to the Jews of Ustiluh in general, and to its martyrs, in particular.
At the beginning we said that the book will serve future generations. We must elaborate:
The first section deals with the history of the village, its atmosphere and stories of certain personalities. It is not merely intended as a history, but we, the present generation of former residents of Ustiluh, have a personal need to do it. We are thus reminded of our childhood and our youth. We have hidden longings for those times. These memories are the spice of human life. It had faded during the evil times…
People retain pictures of their youth as special assets. However, these pieces of paper are silent. They only hint at what was… The book reminds one of various events and happenings that one witnessed and perhaps even participated in.
In contrast, the second section depicts the Holocaust period. It is equally meant for our generation and those to come. We see in these stories a window to what took place and a warning to all those in the Diaspora. One must not have confidence in foreign nations. If not for the naïve trust of the victims of the Nazi beast and in the enlightenment of the German people, who knows how many of them would have been saved. Thousands, if not millions, could have evaded torture and death.
This double assessment directed us in the preparation of the book with its different topics.
An excerpt from one of our mailings to the members:
It is our opinion that a Yizkor Book should not only contain eulogies. We are interested in describing the village in all its nuances, light and dark and the special conditions which influenced its development. We tend to emphasize more its qualities and look at its defects with humor, with understanding.
In addition, we also say:
In our literature we have the expression: Town and mother in Israel. The town can be compared to one's mother. Mother is loved, even if she is physically impaired. One does not falsify her picture in order to correct the impairment. In the same, way, one's hometown, with all its faults, is beloved.
(See the article by Dr. Rosmarin My shtetl Ustiluh). We described our village as it was etched in our childhood memories.
In order to be true to the special character of our village, we dedicated an important part to the description of the Hassidic atmosphere in it. We were assisted by two learned men whose articles are published in the Yiddish section.
In addition, it was our opinion that private recollections are only to be published if they pertain to general events. We did not really insist on this. There were some personal memories that reflected a beautiful Jewish life in many of our homes.
We must emphasize a few more facts that may cause a reaction in our readers. It is best to explain them here:
In conclusion, we must thank all the members who helped to accomplish the job: those on the publication committee who worked tirelessly and the authors of the articles and stories, especially the Survivors who shed tears and suffered pain and those who sent pictures. We thank everyone who helped financially and in other ways to produce this memorial to our village and our beloved martyrs.
You should all be blessed.
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